Christians = Cured Ham?

Josh WannerDevotions

You are the salt of the earth.

Matthew 5:13

When walking through the cafeteria during lunch when I was in college, I overheard a professor looking for the “shaky cheese.” When I asked what he meant by that, he exclaimed that his children, when younger, called parmesan cheese “shaky cheese” because you’d shake it onto your plate of spaghetti. He then commented that he uses a lot of shaky cheese on his spaghetti, but not nearly to the extent that a colleague of his would salt a ham. That created a mental image of a slice of ham with a mound of table salt on it.

Before we think “Yuck, that’s a lot of salt,” let’s think about ham’s saltiness. The process of preparing ham for consumption is called curing. That’s the process of adding salt to the pork to remove moisture from the meat, to kill bacteria, and to give it a longer shelf life. There are a number of different ways to cure the meat, but in the end, we can enjoy the delicious taste in a variety of ways. My favorite way to eat ham is on Christmas day with all the traditional sides. I also enjoy ham with scalloped potatoes or in split pea soup. Yum! Who’s getting hungry?

When I read passages such as Matthew 5:13 (part of this week’s Gospel reading), I get the sense that Jesus is making us into ham. In Mark 9:49-50, it seems like Jesus is going to put us in the smokehouse when he says, “For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good…[h]ave salt in yourselves.” 

What is Jesus doing with us? Last week we saw how the source of our blessings in the Beatitudes portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is Jesus himself. We who are already the poor in spirit, mourners, meek, and hungry and thirsty…who long for something we cannot attain, Jesus gives us nothing but blessings upon blessings. 

With these beatitudes, or in Greek makarioi (mah-KA-roy) we are blessed. Jesus is salting us with all these blessings. As a ham is cured, we are being “cured” as well (in Scripture this process is referred to as sanctification). Jesus took something that is rotted by the bacteria of sin and is making us something better. Something that will have a longer shelf life. Unlike ham, we will have the benefit of life everlasting.

Cured ham has the benefit of having a longer shelf life. It also has another benefit, too. Cured ham is a source of nourishment. We, who are being sanctified, are to be a source of nourishment to others. We are the salt of the earth. We are now the seasoning agents for Jesus as he shakes us into the world. We are now administrators of God’s blessings in Jesus. 

We are good stewards of God’s blessings in Jesus by embracing these blessings and then turning around and salting others with these same blessings.